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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  April 8, 2015 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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[captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! >> what if there was no video? what if there was no witness of, or hero, as i call him, to come forward? then this would not have happened because as you can see, the initial reports stated something totally different. the officer said mr. scott attacked him and pulled a taser and try to use it on him but some but he was watching. amy: a white south carolina
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police officer is charged with first-degree murder after a cell phone video showed him shooting eight times into the back of a 50-year-old african-american man named walter scott who was running away. the officer then handcuff scott as he was lessft face down, and the officer then shows the officer planting a taser . then to ferguson missouri, which hold its first municipal election since the shooting of michael brown. for the first time in ferguson's 20-year history, the six-member city council will have three african-americans. and to chicago where mayor rahm emanuel has survived a runoff against progressive challenger chuy garcia. mayor emanuel: to all the people of chicago who have given me the privilege to serve as your mayor for another four years, thank
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you, god bless you, and god bless chicago. amy: and we will speak with broadcaster tavis smiley about his new book, "my journey with maya." maya angelou: you may try todod me in the very dark, but still like dust, i rise. amy: all that and more coming up. ♪ welcome to democracy now, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. a white south carolina police officer has been charged with murder after a video showed him shooting and apparently unarmed aspen american man who was running away. this happened after north charleston police officer michael slager stopped walter scott for a broken brake light. slager is seen a shooting at scott eight times as he runs away. walter scott's brother, anthony, is grateful for the witness
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again forward with the video. anthony scott: from the beginning when it happened the first day, i always wondered. and i think through the process we see the truth. and we cannot get my brother back, and my family is in deep mourning for that, but through the process of justice has been served and i do not think that all police officers are bad cops. but there are some bad ones out there, and i do not want to see anyone get shot down the way that my brother was shot down. amy: the north charleston police department had initially defended officer slager after he said he had feared for his life and claimed scott had taken his taser weapon, but it showed
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he shot him in the back at a distance of about 15 feet. the video also appears to capture slager planting an object next to scott. the video does not appear to show scott in possession of the officer's stun gun of any time. walter scott was a father of four who served two years in the u.s. coast guard. we will go to south carolina after headlines. the u.s. is expediting weapon shipments to aid saudi arabia's military campaign in -- >> saudi arabia is sending a strong message to the houthis and their allies that they cannot overrun yemen by force. in support of that effort, we have expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the saudi operation cell. amy: the pentagon meantime is warning al qaeda and they have
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seized on the ground. aqap fighters have reportedly seized a border post. the line has said more than -- the u.n. has said more than 1000 people have been displaced will stop president obama has rejected israel close the demand that a final nuclear agreement include iran's recognition of israel's right to exist of a state. president obama said it is not a sweeping political accord. president obama: the notion that we would condition iran's not getting nuclear weapons in a verifiable deal on iran recognizing israel is really akin to saying that we will not sign a deal unless the nature of the iranian regime completely transforms, and that is, i think, a fundamental misjudgment. amy: the white house is backing off its move, deeming venezuela
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national security threat to the united states. use the designation to sanction top venezuelan officials, but speaking to reporters tuesday white house advisor benjamin rosen said "the white house is not believe venezuela loza some threat to our national security." the statement comes as president obama prepares for a regional trip that includes a summit of the organization of american states in panama. venezuelan officials say they will present obama with a petition of millions of signatures calling on president obama to resend the order. -- to rescind the order. the state department said tuesday it expects to remove cuba from the terror list. in washington, state department spokesperson marie hart said the summit could see high-level meetings, including between president obama and even president roh austro -- raul castro. ms. hart: we expect a summit,
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but the schedule is not confirmed yet. nothing to confirm at this point, but there's a chance that there will be. amy: a new report shows the federal government secretly tracked billions of u.s. phone calls years before the 9/11 attacks. according to usa today, the justice department and drug enforcement information collected bulk data for phone calls deems to have -- from dozens of countries seem to have tracking. chicago mayor rahm emanuel has won reelection in a hard-fought runoff against challenger chuy garcia. emanuel defeated garcia with a margin of about 55% to garcia's 44%. emanuel celebrated his victory tuesday night. they aremayor emanuel: i have had the fortune of being elected to congress. being mayor of the city of chicago is the greatest job i've
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ever had and the greatest job in the world. i am humbled at the opportunity to continue to serve you, the greatest city, with the greatest people, for the next four years. amy: rahm emanuel raised 23 nine dollars for the campaign. more than three times garcia's $6 million. we will have more on this story in the broadcast. can't has become the first aid in the country to ban a common procedure during second trimester abortions. governor sam's brownback signed a law, which bans doctors from using instruments to remove a fetus in pieces. it allows exceptions only to save a woman's life or prevent reversible damage to a major bodily function. the founder of the southwind women's center said the clinic of lane dr. george tiller in wichita, kansas says the law is
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unconstitutional and dangerous because it bans physicians from using "their sound medical judgment to decide what is best for their patient. similar measures have been introduced in missouri, missouri and south carolina. senator rand paul of kentucky has launched his bid for the presidential nomination in 26 teen. -- in 2016. paul declared his candidacy in an event in lexington. senator paul: we have come to see that back from special interests that have used watching that have a personal piggy bank, more concerned with their welfare than the general welfare. the washington machine that cobbles of our freedom and invades every nothing cranny of our lives must be stopped. amy: former senator hillary clinton could be the next 2016 candidate to declare. last week on mcclinton's campaign leased an office in
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new york as its headquarters. and the imprisoned journalist -- saying he has lost over 50 pounds and is covered with a hard, leathery layer of jet black skin that is bloody, painful, and itchy. abul jamal is in a prison infirmary in pennsylvania after he was temporarily hospitalized for diabetic shock. his supporters have demanded he be allowed to see an independent team of specialists, chosen by his family. those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i am amy goodman. nermeen: and i am nermeen shaikh. a south carolina police officer has been charged with murder after a cell phone video show the officer shooting eight times of the back of a 50-year-old african american man named walter scott, who was running away. the shooting occurred on saturday morning after north
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charlestown police officer michael slager stopped walter scott for a broken brake light. walter scott was a father of four who served for two years in the u.s. coast guard. chris stewart is an attorney for the scott family. chris stewart: what if there was no video? what if there was no witness, or hero, if i call him, to come forward? then this would not have happened because as you can see, the initial reports stated something totally different. the officer said mr. scott attacked him and pulled his taser and tried to use it on him, but somebody was watching. >> hallelujah. chris stewart: there was a witness they came forward with a video command the initial reports were wrong. nermeen: before the video was posted online, the north charlestown police department and the officer's attorney defended the use of deadly force. on monday, "the post and courier" ran a report headlined, quote, attorney says "north
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charleston police officer felt threatened before fatal shooting." the paper reported, quote, "police allege that during the struggle the man gained control of the taser and attempted to use it against the officer. the officer then resorted to his service weapon and shot him, police alleged." amy: but video showed the police officer shooting walter scott in the back at a distance of about 15 feet. in addition, the video appears to capture slager planting an taser gun next to scott. the video does not appear to show scott in possession of the officer's stun gun at any time. initial police reports also claimed officers performed cpr and delivered first aid to scott. but the video does not show this. instead, the officer is seen handcuffing scott as he remained face down after the shooting. not clear if he is dead or dying. another officer later brings a medical kit but is not seen administering cpr.
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on tuesday, north charleston mayor keith summey addressed the media after the video of officer michael slager shooting walter scott was viewed by state investigators, and a decision was made to charge slager with murder. mayor summey: this was a bad decision by one of those 343 police officers, and i think the lesson that we take out of this comment hopefully the general public takes out of it, is that when an incident occurs, give us the appropriate time to investigate, find out exactly what happened, and we will act accordingly. amy: a recent study by "the state" newspaper in south carolina found it is remains exceedingly rare for an officer to be found at fault criminally for shooting at someone.
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in the past five years, police in south carolina have fired their weapons at 209 suspects in the past five years but none of them have been convicted. that is one being shot by police once every few weeks on average for the last five years. joining us now is long time south carolina civil rights activist kevin alexander gray. he edited the book "killing trayvons: an anthology of american violence" and is the author of "waiting for lightning to strike: the fundamentals of black politics." he is joining us from columbia, south carolina. welcome back to democracy now! can you first, kevin respond to this videotape that came out after an initial police report that this officer felt afraid, so he opened fire and killed walters got? -- walter scott? kevin: well, if you can get over your initial outrage, you have to command of the mayor for acting swiftly and bringing
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charges against the police officer. obviously the video shows that the police lied, and that is not uncommon for police to life. -- to lie. it is just lucky that there was someone there to film it. we have to ask the question about the officer's partner, but it is clear that the officer lied about what transpired in the parking lot, but at least the police department in north charleston acted swiftly. now they need to act on some reforms. they have got a population in north charleston that is 40% black, yet their population is 80% -- yet their police forces 80% white. we have got to serious about the policy on shoe to kill. we have got to get serious about whether or not we want x military as police officers. we need to take a serious look at just hiring people out of the
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military because they may have combat experience. well, serving the people is not combat. the police are there to serve and protect, and if the police believe that by killing black people, by treating black people as subhuman when i think no one is looking, that that is going to make their lives safer -- it is not. we have got to deal with this epidemic of police violence was up white people in this country think it is just black people getting killed and they believe that black people for the most part are inherently criminal or come as we say busted or bustable, so when you mention certain things, prior arrests, people turn a blind eye, but more whites get killed in this country by police was that people have got to the attention to this country becoming a police state. we need to cap down on the militarization of police departments. we need to look at the use of force and reform police
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departments across this country and start keeping track of the number of people that police are killing across this country. i believe it has been reported that in the first three mods or form as of this year, over 300 people have been killed by police across this country. not just blacks, not just men but men and women. people who are mentally ill. we have got to take a serious look at how police or office -- are operating in this country right now. nermeen: kevin alexander gray, do you think the reform you are suggesting is likely to happen given the overwhelming evidence that was given this video? kevin: we still have to engage with grassroots organizing. eddie's to be that the naacp, at least in south carolina, was the place that you reported police abuse. the in at least a v and other organizations need to step up and retrain that role of looking out for the citizens and taking these reports so that we can know what is going on in the
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community and act on it, but it takes mobilization come takes people being involved, it takes evil like the fella who found this being courageous enough to provide this footage. i have people who reported police and were afraid to turn the footage over because they were afraid of what the police might do when nobody is looking. people have to be courageous, people have to hold police accountable, people have to hold the prosecutors accountable, people have to hold elected officials accountable. we need to start tracking how the police are operating in these communities. we need to know for certain how many people that the police are killing across this country. i think it is estimated at police in the united states have killed, what, maybe 7000 people since 2003, but no one really knows because no one wants to keep record. we have to demand that the police keep records on every time they fired their weapons and what happens when those bullets leave those chambers. amy: walter scott's brother
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anthony, said the family is grateful for the witness they came forward with the video leading to the arrest of officer slager. anthony scott: all we wanted from the beginning was the truth, and through the process we received the truth, and we cannot get my brother back, and my family is in deep mourning for that, but through the process of justice has been served and i do not think that all police officers are bad cops. but there are some bad ones out there. and i do not want to see anyone get shot down the way that my brother got shot down. amy: that is walter scott's brother, anthony. it is quite astounding kevin
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it is quite astounding how brave this filmer was. i will not say "shooter," we often say the person taking the film is a shooter, but the person filling this and staying with it, not only filling him being shot at eight times -- a fairly five shots one pierced his heart. but the officer then handcuffing him as he is spaced down on the ground not clear if he is dying or dead. those away ,-- goes away, soort of trots away, grabbed it appears to be the stun gun, and it appears that he places it next to this dying or dead man who is facedown on the ground, know , kevin: if the idea for the police officer that the person shooting the film is invisible and the person he shot was subhuman or an animal, that he
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would lie and say that the man tried to take his son gun, and you can clearly see him planning this, getting best on gun and drawing it under his body, and in the way that he disrespected a man lying dead on the ground by handcuffing him, and people have to ask the question about him shooting that man running shooting him in the back. now, you know, according to the so-called american rugged individualist code, to shoot someone in the back is swirling. you are a coward. what if he had shot an innocent bystander? i am glad the young man was brave enough to film that officer's actions and call him out for the officer he is. amy: apparently he was stopped for a traffic stop, walter scott was, for a tail light out. i wanted to go to the record
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of officer slager, the man charged with murder. i looking at an nbc news report. it does that he had two complaints against him. he was cleared of a complaint regarding use of force. in that case, a man alleged that slager had uses taser for no reason, slamming him to the ground in september of 2013. the officer was exonerated upon investigation, documents show. i guess the person i case was not lucky enough for someone to have a video of what he was doing. kevin: and in the same way, his partners backed him up, no one is talking about although the officer -- the other officer was black, the of their other officer came out there and cosigned basically on that bogus report, see you have to go back and really investigate that whole department. they have had allegations of having poor racial relations in
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north charleston. a lot of police departments that operate in for nominally black neighborhoods and especially lower-income neighborhoods, but this idea for a lot of cops, especially racist, sadistic cops, that black people are subhuman, that they can talk to you any kind of way, that they can disrespect you at a traffic stop, and is in fact a traffic stop is going to be a situation where your life is in danger by someone who was supposed be protecting you, and when you go back and look at the numbers black people are not assaulting police officers. in the last time i think it is five years four police officer's have been killed, but there is no epidemic of violence against police officers in this country, so we have to look at how policing is ian conducted across the board. this idea that police have the right to shoot to kill for charges that if they are brought to trial would result in a misdemeanor charge -- no one
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should receive the death penalty for a misdemeanor. nermeen: let's turn to north charleston chief of police eddie driggers after they announced they would charge officer michael slager with the murder of michael scott. chief driggers: we have that 343 police officers in our department. this was a bad decision by one of those 343. and i think the lesson that we take out of this and hopefully the general public takes out of it is that when an incident occurs, give us the appropriate time to investigate, find out exactly what happened, and we will act accordingly. it has been a tragic day for many. a tragic day for many. i am sure the family is going
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through remorse over the loss of a loved one, and when you hear news, it is still tragic. when you first get news just that we have been gotten today. nermeen: that was north charleston mayor keith summey followed by the police chief. what are your thoughts? kevin: if that video had not,, the police would have covered up this murder. amy: kevin alexander gray, thank you for being with us, civil rights activist and delete or in south carolina pulls up the edited the book "killing trayvons: an anthology of american violence," and is the author of "waiting for lightning to strike: the fundamentals of black politics."
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when we come back, we go to ferguson. then to chicago where elections also took place, and and we will be speaking with tape it smiley but his journey with my angelou. stay with us. ♪ [music break] ["strange fruit" by billie holiday]
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amy: "strange fruit" here sung b y nina simone, most known by billie holiday saying it. yesterday was the 100 anniversary of billie holiday's birth. she described how she would throw up after singing a song about lynching. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report.
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i am amy goodman. nermeen: we turn now to ferguson, missouri. less than one year after protests erupted over the police shooting of unarmed black teenager michael brown, there are now three black city council members in a city that formerly had one. ferguson is a majority black city. tuesday night ella jones and wesley bell were elected with record voter turnout of nearly 30% in an area that usually sees about 12% of registered voters go to the polls. until now, duane james was the only african-american member of the city council even though ferguson is about 60% black. amy: when michael brown was killed last august, ferguson's mayor the police chief, the city , manager and the municipal judge were all white. since the shooting, all but the mayor have resigned. the newly elected city council members will be charged with hiring their replacements. well for more we go to st. louis where we're joined for an update by patricia bynes, democratic committeewoman of ferguson township. she helped register residents and get out the vote, and served as a campaign manager for two of the candidates who ran. welcome back to democracy now!
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can you talk about the significance of this victory? patricia: good morning. thank you. there has been an incredible win on behalf of the community and for the candidates. for the very first time, there is an african american woman sitting on the city services countcil. in 2013, 4 women and african-americans, this was clearly huge for a city with this type of history that it has. and the amount of turnout, the amount of interest, and the people that came out to vote, i think this has something very good about the community and wanting to step up and get involved. nermeen: can you say something more, patricia bynes them about the turnout? how many people turned out, and who was involved in getting people to know, first of all that these elections were taking place, and then to vote? patricia: absolutely.
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i believe we had a 30% of voter turnout, which is a much larger increase than in the past or april elections. there seems to be such very low voter turnout, and some of the elections in the past were not even 100 people in certain wards would come out and vote, so there were several groups and organizations that were involved in making sure that people who live in ferguson knew that there was an election. there were people who world over the country who could certainly take credit for making sure that they helped give people out to vote. ever since august, there has been a huge interest in making sure that anybody who was not able to register to vote had a voter registration card in front of them, but the story of ferguson has never really been about voter registration. people have been registered -- they just have not gotten out to vote. so the naacp was involved. operation help or hush was involved. a creative program called
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ferguson alternative spring break, where almost 200 college students from all over the country came and spent their spring break in ferguson encouraging people to get involved with their community and civic education. organizations for black struggle seiu, the working families party -- the urban league here was involved in making sure people got out to vote. nermeen: given the changes patricia bynes, in the city council and administration, what are some of the reforms that you think should now be undertaken and in ferguson? patricia: the very first thing that has to happen is clearly i think everybody almost knows this -- we need to deal with the department of justice findings on the police and the municipal courts. that cannot be ignored. now that there is a new council in place, i believe there will be a lot more direction in moving forward, and i think there is some strong voices and
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some coalitions now that can be made to help move things forward, so that is number one. dealing with the immediate department of justice finding on the police department and the municipal court. amy: can you talk about what will be the process for choosing a new police chief, for choosing a new city manager, and where things will go from there? how much power these city council members have. patricia: right. so currently right now i know there is a national search going on or both. -- for both. first of all, anyone who applies to be the city manager or the police if of ferguson at this one in time i think that is incredibly courageous and i believe that now with a new counsel being able to ask questions and be involved and vet people, i think that we have
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an opportunity to get the right person in place to move the city in a better direction. that is what is needed, so i think there will be some strong voices to be able to make that happen because this is a difficult time. i believe i said last night that anybody who even ran for office or the city at the one in time needs to be congratulated for stepping up and running. so certainly anyone even applying to be the city manager or the police chief -- there is opportunity here to do a lot of good, and that is what i want to see, and that is what many people who live in ferguson and even those who have been supporting the community from the outside, that is what they want to see as well. amy: patricia bynes, thank you for being with us, democratic committeewoman of ferguson township, helped registered get out to vote, and served as campaign manager for two candidates who ran. this is democracy now!, the war and peace report. i am amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. as we move from elections in ferguson, missouri to chicago. nermeen: chicago mayor rahm
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emanuel has won the election in a runoff against challenger jesus "chuy" garcia. emanuel got 55% to garcia's 44% full stop emanuel celebrated his victory tuesday night. mayor emanuel: i have had the good fortune to serve to presidents will stop i've had the fortune of being elected to congress. being mayor of the city of chicago is the greatest job i have ever had in the greatest job in the world. i am humbled at the opportunity to continue to serve you, the greatest city with the greatest people, for the next four years. nermeen: rahm emanuel raised $23 million for the campaign, more than three times garcia's $6 million. the race became a symbol for national divide between the democrat party's water is any less well-funded progressive wing for emanuel served as president obama's chief of staff
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was a longtime community activist and county commissioner who was born in mexico. amy: joining us from chicago is right roasting, a chicago-based reporter who has been covering these elections for "in these times," and he is author of best-selling book "nixonland: the rise of a president and the fracturing of america." welcome back to democracy now!, rick. talk about the election for mayor rahm emanuel and the showings for chewy garcia. rick: well, the word that the mayor used in his speech was "humbled," and it is our hope among the progressive politics of chicago that he is truly humbled it will not double down and become more authoritarian and try and raise, you know, $60 million for next time because chuy garcia really pulled together the elements of the activist community in chicago in a way that really cemented gains
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that have been going on in chicago for the last few years that really started with the chicago teachers strike, and really made sure that the powers that be in the city know that they cannot trifle with ordinary folks. that is a moral victory, of course. we would have liked to is seen something better last night. nermeen: this was the first runoff election for a mayor in chicago's history. could you explain what the different levels of discontent were with emanuel's administration that led to the race being so close? rick: sure. it is very interesting by the way, that we have a runoff system. they instituted a system after washington's insurgent victories that made it impossible to win unless you have 50% of the votes come a majority, not a plurality, and that was exactly to prevent insurgentss like chuy
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garcia from gaining power, but rahm emanuel had so much dissatisfaction that chuy almost pulled it off. people were unsatisfied in the way he closed schools without listening to the parents. they were frustrated at everyday things like potholes, and they were frustrated at the red light cameras he instituted as a revenue grab, a regressive tax and really light about it, said it was about safety. the "chicago tribune" proved that it was not making the city more safe, and proved that city hall was lying about it. that kind of stuff really frustrated ordinary chicagoans, and the stuff that kind of really galvanized the activist community was the fact that rahm emanuel just announced almost officially that they were not on his radar, that he was going to deal with the financial powers,
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and that was it. amy: i wanted to go to chuy garcia on democracy now! when we recently interviewed him. he talked about what he was running for office. mr. garcia: i'm running for mayor of the city of chicago because chicago needs to go in a different direction. for the past four years, we have seen mayor emanuel arrive in town with a bullet of money imposes policies on the people of the city of chicago. they have favored a select few in chicago through the amassing of large sums of money. he thought he could get reelected while leaving behind chicago neighborhoods, making chicago a city that leads the nation and a number of school closings, almost 50, and making chicago at the same time one of the most violent cities in the country. amy: so that was chuy garcia on democracy now!. rick perlsteen, can you talk about who he was and the significance of this victory?
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this was a second election. this was the runoff, which shows how many people disapproved of rahm emanuel. and especially what this means for the latino community in chicago. rick: one of the exciting things about this movement, and it was a movement as well as an election, as we saw the emergence of a national to con a leader. chuy garcia is a remarkable guy. he has a remarkable inner core of strength. he has been hanging on in chicago reform politics since the 1980's when other people sold out fell by the wayside were crushed by the machine. here is this guy who was born in mexico, moved here when he was 9, came up through the ranks of chicago reform politics, was an elderman was a state senator they ran a guy gets them who was also calledd chuy garcia the old and dirty trick, so what
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this means is under the second mayor daley, the hispanic community was co-opted into some called the hispanic democratic organization, and that was the scene of a great deal of corruption in chicago, but now what we have is an independent reform force of hispanic politics in chicago that is really joined with the african-american community in a way that we have not seen since the 1980's. one of the strategies of rahm emanuel was to try to exacerbate tensions between the hispanic community of chicago and the black community in chicago, but the tensions were all there for them to exploit. they united. it was other factors that gave rahm emanuel his victory. it was the money, it was media that really kind of read from rahm emanuel's script, but another silver lining in this election as we see a galvanized hispanic population, united with the african-american population,
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united with the white left, and that is not going to go away. that is a real permanent structure for chicago. amy: finally, rick perlsteen, you have written about covering this area in chicago, known as a black site, which is chicago home in square. how did this controversy play out in the elections? how to do media coverage explain what it is? rick: basically we have a police building in the middle of nowhere called home in square -- homan square where they basically do things that are tantamount to torture, and that was broken up by "the guardian," the london paper, and the chicago media was extorting a really defense ive at having been scooped by an outside paper, and lo and behold he tried to debunk the story and then completely ignored it after that. amy: but a top guy left. rick: a top and left the police
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department. one of the extraordinary reactions of both the police and the media, this was supposed to be a defense, was oh, what goes on at homan square goes on in lots of free things, so it is not a black site because it is kind of like business as usual. that was the defense. so the chicago police need a lot of cleaning up. it is not going to happen without insurgent energy from below, which i think we are going to see. this movement is not going away. amy: rick perlstein, we want to thank you for being with us. covering chicago elections for "in these times," and also author of "nixonland: the rise of a president and the fracturing of america." this is democracy now!. when we come back, tavis smiley joins us to talk about his decade-long relationship with maya angelou. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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["run joe" by maya angelou:]
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amy: "run joe" by my angelo from her album "miss calypso." nermeen: we end the show remembering the poet my angelo. maya angelou: great souls die our souls depended upon them come upon their nature, among their nurture, now soinks. our minds formed and informed by
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their radiance seems to fall away. we are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable silence of dark, cold case. and then our memory comes to us again in the form of a spirit, and it is the spirit. nermeen: maya angelou, the legendary writer and civil rights activist reading her poem, "when great trees fall." this may marks angelou's one-year death anniversary. well, we spend the remainder of the hour honoring angelou through the memories of her friend, the public tv and radio broadcaster tavis smiley. his new book is called, "my journey with maya." it chronicles their nearly three-decade long, multi-generational friendship. he was 21 and she was 58 when they first met in the mid-1980's. the book is brimming with the renowned poet's words and smiley's remembrances of how she guided him through challenging moments in his life.
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amy: the book's release coincides with the u.s. postal service's unveiling of a new limited edition forever stamp honoring maya angelou. the stamp bears a picture of maya with the quote -- "a bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song." but the stamp has caused a controversy after it emerged the quotation is apparently not maya angelou's. children's book author joan walsh anglund said she wrote it first in a book of poems published in 1967. but she said she did not mind it was identified with my angelo because she said she hoped that her writing would sub a subliminally affect people and shape children as she has written it as a children's book. for more, we're joined now by tavis smiley. he's speaking today at the new york public library at noon, then at the union square barnes & nobles at 7:30 pm. the book, "my journey with maya" is co-written with david ritz is now being adapted for broadway by kenny leon, the tony award-winning director of "a raisin in the sun."
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tavis smiley, welcome to democracy now! tavis: good to see you. amy: congratulations on this lovely book. when you first meet maya? amy:tavis: when i was 21, i was an aide to the mayor of los my city, and as aides are assigned to do, i had the honor to present her a letter, a proclamation, and i was literally in her presence for just five minutes, amy, but enough five minutes, i felt something so powerful and so strong that i vowed to myself at some point in my life i have got to get myself back into this woman's space. i had no idea that some years later i would be invited by her to go on a trip to africa for almost two weeks. my assignment literally was just to carry her bags, and for two weeks, i carried her bags around africa, but that did not stop her from allowing a friendship to blossom. i mean, she was already iconic at that point.
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this was in august of 1993 sewing january of 1993, she of course i delivered that: that bill clinton's first inauguration, so she is already world-renowned, and i'm just a nobody but we are hanging out for a couple of week and she enveloped me, she embraced me, and 28 years later, until she passed away last may, what a wonderful friendship. nermeen: could you explain? you talk about a very powerfully in the book that significant of that trip for my angela to ghana and also to you. tavis: she had lived in ghana earlier in her life, so for her it was a homecoming, so they rolled out the red carpet for herb on before i had ever heard of or met a guy called barack obama, i met an african-american president of a country called ghana. here i am come something year
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old kid, hanging out with my maya, i had never left the country, i'm going to africa for the first time leaving, with my angelou, meeting the president of ghana, and maya is speaking to the international conference and then walks in the great historian john henry clarke. i am a 20 year old kid full stop all of this in. it was significant for her because she was going home, as it were back to a place she had lived prior, but for me i had run for city council in los angeles and lost this race. i laugh at it now, but it was not so funny then. i'm in my mid-20's, i ran for city council and ali and i had lost, but because all it wanted to do was be a public servant -- and i make a distinction between public servant and politician, my euro has been for all of my life dr. king, so i thought
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public service was my way to express this gift that i thought i had of loving certain people, so i wanted to run for public office. i run for city council and i lose, but because i had no other goals or plans in life but to serve people, i literally did not know what to do. i was lost. i did not know what the next step in my life was, what is my calling in the world? the only thing i was ever born to do i just failed at. what do i do now ? it was a seriously depressing moment for me, so into the very space comes this invitation from my angela to go to africa, and i started this journey is trying to figure what my role in the world was will. amy: let's go back to my angelo in her own words as she reads one of her most celebrated poems, "still i rise." maya angelou: you may write me down in history with your bitter, twisted lies, you may tread me in the very dirt but still, like dust, i'll rise.
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does my sassiness upset you? why are you beset with gloom? just 'cause i walk like i've got oil wells pumping in my living room. just like sons and like moons with the certainty of tides, , just like hopes springing high, still i'll rise. did you want to see me broken? bowed head and lowered eyes? shoulders falling down like teardrops. weakened by my soulful cries. does my sassiness upset you? don't take it so hard just because i laugh. i laugh as if i have got gold mines diggin' in my own back yard. you can shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your lies, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but just like life, i rise.
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does my sexiness upset you? does it come as a surprise that i dance like i've got as if i have got diamonds at the meeting of my thighs? out of the huts of history's shame i rise up from a past that's rooted in pain i rise a black ocean, leaping and wide, welling and swelling i bear in the tide. leaving behind nights of terror and fear i rise into a daybreak miraculously clear i rise bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, i am the hope and the dream of the slave. and so naturally, there i go rising. amy: my angelo reading from her
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poem "still i rise." and according to "the guardian" and bbc, nelson mandela recited "still i rise" at his inauguration for president in 1994 in south africa. i want to go to maya with tavis when my angelo appeared on the tab david smiley show and discuss president barack obama the first president in the u.s. history. this is him interviewing her on that a story today. tavis: it makes me think of that phrase them and we all know now, it is in our brains, yes we can, and that yes we can or to see if one barack obama, so in a matter of hours from now, this country will inaugurate its first african-american president, and what is that grin i see on your face about? maya angelou: [laughs]
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look at what we have. my lord. a young, not just a prince, we have a young king. we have a young king who strides into the arena bringing everyone with him president-elect obama. i admire him, i love him with my heart because he sees himself as the american president. and he means to see our country become more than it is today more than what james rolling calls "these yet to be united states. tavis: oh, your dear friend jimmy baldwin. amy: that is my maya angelou
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on the tape is smiley show. -- on the "tavis smiley show." tavis: i interviewed her over a dozen times, started as a kid trying to figure what my role is, she saw me blossom and saw my career unfold, and she was a guest on my program over a dozen times, and my skin tingle there is a must see myself in conversation with her because i adore her so much. your point, we disagreed on a number of things. she allowed me to interrogate her. she welcomes hearing my opinions and my point of view. she wanted to have a conversation of ideas so that both of us would be made better. she started out a strong supporter of hillary clinton in 2008 all briefly because she has arkansas roots. bill clinton, as we all know is obviously from a place called hope, so they are friends from their arkansas days. when brock obama -- when barack
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obama waged the nomination, she of course supported barack obama. people thought my questions were a bit top on the candidate, people thought you were top on the candidate. that happens in our business when we raise questions that i think and you believe ought to be raised will stop these are critical questions that have to be raised. people have to be held accountable, and you cannot just do it to the bushes, you do to the clintons and the obamas, and that is your role in this great program, and i celebrate you for that, and that is what my role is, so maya angelou understood that, but winning the obama campaign started sending all of its surrogates after me to try to get me to "tone down," whatever that means we'll stop i guess not do my job. they sent charles over tree, who was a professor of iraq and michelle at the harvard law school. it's in other people over to me to try to get me to tone down and one of that work, they played their eighth art, they had my mother, maya angelou, call me, and we had a serious rotation about barack obama, and she expressed her point of view and i said to her this is my
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calling, when i met you, we hung out 20 years ago in africa, this is what you were trying to get me to figure out, what my place was in the world and i have done this consistently, and i know you appreciate the fact that this is what i do. i do not disrespect brock obama, i intend to vote for him just like you are going to vote for him, but that does not mean that should aggregate my response ability to hold him accountable. she understood it and that conversation ended, as did every conversation, because there are a number of things in the book you read that we had debates about, about barack obama, about the "n" word. one of her biggest mistakes i believe was when she wrote the op-ed supporting clarence thomas. we had a long debate about what we thought was the greatest of all the virtues for stuffy as the one-day, and i said for me it had to be loved and she said no, i think it is currently for 28 years, we had a
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debate over which was the greatest of those virtues, love or courage. we never settle that, even after she died last year, there is ill no winner, no definitive answer to that debate, but my point is that every difference that we had, amy always ended on a love note. she never allowed any conversation, no matter how tense or terse, to end on anything but a love note, and our friendship always made in tact. amy: well, tavis smiley, we want to thank you for being with us take the smiley, journalist, public tv and radio broadcaster. his new book is called "my journey with maya." via speaking today at the new york public library at noon and at union square barnes & noble at 7:30. this is democracy now! democracy now! is produced by mike burke, renee feltz, aaron mate, nermeen shaikh, steve martinez, sam alcoff, hany massoud, robby karran, deena guzder, amy littlefield, anna ozbeck and sam riddell. mike di fillippo and miguel nogueira are our engineers. special thanks to becca staley julie crosby, hugh gran, jessica lee, david prude and vesta goodarz. and to our camera crew, jon randolph, kieran meadows, carlo de jesus and jose miranda.
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